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BLM Delays Decision On Alton Coal Mine

Coal Hollow strip mine near Alton, UT
Alicia Geesman
The Coal Hollow strip mine near Alton, UT

The Bureau of Land Management was expected to issue a decision this fall on whether to allow Alton  Coal Development LLC to expand its strip mine in Kane County.  But it's now decided to issue a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project.  That won't come out until early next year, and it will be followed by another six-week period for public comment.  Keith Rigtrup, who has supervised the process for the BLM since it was first proposed in 2006, says they got a lot of feedback on the draft EIS.

"We had 177,000 comments received on the document," Rigtrup tells KUER. "But as we started to go through there were some issues that people had and agencies had that were raised."

Those issues include, among other things, the proximity of the mine to Bryce Canyon National Park and its impact on wetlands, wildlife and public safety.  Some of those supplemental studies are being done now.

Steve Bloch with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says there no reason for a delay at this point.

"We think that the BLM had enough information at its disposal to say that this is a bad idea and reject it," he said.  "It should do so now or should have done so already."

The mine is currently operating on about six hundred acres of private land near the town of Alton.  It wants to expand onto 3500 acres of surrounding public land.

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